Scenario is precarious for urad with almost half the crop damaged in major growing states, tur quota of 400,000 tonnes already exhausted.
Import dependence in pulses could rise this year on account of substantial kharif crop damage after a long spell of unseasonal rain during October.
Data from the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry showed total import at 2.37 million tonnes (mt) in 2018-19, compared to 5.37 mt and 6.34 mt for 2017-18 and 2016-17, respectively.
For the period between April and August this year (first five months of this financial year), import was 1.12 mt.
However, the Centre is also currently sitting on a buffer stock of 800,000 tonnes of tur (pigeon pea) and 1.5 mt of chana (chickpea), for use as market intervention if the price escalates.
“The scenario, however, is precarious for urad (black gram) due to almost 50 per cent crop damage in its major growing states, including Madhya Pradesh. Urad-sowing fields received incessant unseasonal rainfall in October and November, resulting in waterlogging and, thus, crop damage.
"While India’s pulses import is expected to jump significantly to meet the deficit, much would depend upon government policies, with opening of import beyond the quota fixed for the current year,” said Zaverchand Bheda, chairman, Indian Pulses and Grains Association, while announcing the fifth edition for the coming February of The Pulses Conclave, a biennial global meet.
Experts believe India’s import would surpass last year, over and above the existing buffer stock, to meet the country’s annual demand of around 26 mt.
The government had fixed an import quota at 400,000 tonnes of tur this year; trade sources say this much has already been imported.
They are waiting for a further quota to be announced to import more.
Around 30 per cent of agriculture crop damage is estimated in Maharashtra. Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh have also reported crop damage due to water submergece.
Among the crops affected are sugarcane, oilseeds, pulses, jowar, paddy, and bajra.
“Considering India’s buffer stock is almost equivalent to the quantity of import, we had almost achieved self-sufficiency last year.
"But, the government needs to act now, as urad consumption cannot be replaced with other pulses.
"Farmers in Myanmar are set to commence urad bean sowing in the weeks to come and they would sow more if the Government of India allows its import over and above the quantity announced for 2019-20,” said Pravin Dongre, a pulses importer.
Urad is reported to have lost around half its earlier estimated production of 1.5 mt.
While traders and stockists have already imported around 150,000 tonnes so far this season, primarily from Myanmar and East Africa, farmers in those countries currently possess another 240,000 tonnes for export.
In fact, urad dal prices in India have doubled in the past six weeks, to Rs 85 a kg in wholesale markets.
Prices of other varieties of pulses have also risen, by 10-15 per cent in this period.
Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters